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Miami-Dade Plans to Confront 'Sexting' Problem

The board for the Miami-Dade County school district approved a plan today to educate students about the legal and safety issues related to “sexting,” the recent craze among adolescents of sharing nude or sexually provocative photos over cellphones.The vote makes Miami-Dade among the first of the nation's largest urban districts to formally address the emerging problem.

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Under the plan, the 345,000-student district would revise its current cellphone policy—which allows students to bring the devices to school, but requires them to be turned off while on campus—or create new rules related to the use of mobile technologies. District officials will introduce additional lessons related to tech safety beginning this coming school year and train teachers to use them.

School personnel would also reach out to parents to raise awareness of the problem and give them tools to head off the behavior. They would also work with local and state law enforcement officials, as well as government agencies, to review current laws and come up with guidelines for protecting students against unfair or inappropriate prosecution under laws that may have been crafted for adults.

As we wrote about in Edweek last month, some minors have been charged with adult sex crimes after sending inappropriate photos of themselves or their peers to others via cellphones. Such images can fall into the category of child pornography in the eyes of the law.

Here's a nugget from the Miami Herald's piece on the plan:

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he would like to work with government and law enforcement agencies to develop a cutting-edge School Board policy -- and preach the dangers of sending racy pictures.

''This is to protect kids, to make them aware of the legal implications of some of their virtual transactions,'' Carvalho said.

As sexting has grabbed public attention, and teenagers and educators have gotten caught up in the legal and other consequences of the practice, school officials have been urged to respond with more precise rules around cellphone use. They’ve also been encouraged to provide information to students, teachers, and parents about the dangers of sexting, including the permanent digital record it creates.

The American Association of School Administrators, based in Arlington, Va., for example, has offered webinars and tip sheets on the subject and is developing a toolkit for administrators. And the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, an arm of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Association of District Attorneys, has been calling for a more careful consideration of laws used to charge offending teenagers.

What are the districts near you doing? Is this another fad that is destined to phase out, or a major problem on the horizon for schools?

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